How FF7 started it all
Early 2020, I was watching the demo gameplay of Final Fantasy 7 remake for the PS4. I remember looking at the fight scenes and being amazed at how complex it all was. I had an idea to visualize the fighting moves. With little experience and knowledge of games (other than playing for my leisure), I started to explore brainstorm ideas.
In February 2020, I was focusing intensely on exploring a direction for my work. I made weekly Instagram carousels. One of them was about a fantastic game called God of War (2018 version). I never played this game, but I’ve seen the playthrough and the story is deeply emotional, it explores the relationship between a father and his son. I decided to visualize some of the attacks in this game. I was deeply inspired by a helpful resource by The Game Maker’s Toolkit that explained combat systems in video games. It revealed the mechanics of games in a new light for me.
I learned that in combat design, there are three phases in every attack and each have a set of frames associated with it.
- Anticipation: this is the moment before an attack lands on the enemy. It is the startup animation. Usually, higher number of frames during this phase means it is riskier to execute because you are vulnerable to being attacked while you gear up for an attack.
- Contact: the moment when contact is made with the enemy and dictates the amount of damage dealt.
- Recovery: after damage is dealt, the phase when the character returns to its neutral state.
For every attack a character makes, the speed relies heavily on the anticipation phase. In the video here, the Freezing Burst has a longer anticipation phase than Freezing Throw. This subtle difference is what we have to consider when it comes to battle tactics. I show the anticipation phase via frame count.
Inspired by Female Pro-Gamers
Sometime in April 2020, I accidentally came upon a series of YouTube videos that document women who compete professional in fighting games. One video was Yuyu, a player from the team UYU, giving a tutorial on how to play Tekken 7. This video revealed to me that fighting games was a lot more than just button mashing. There is a lot of knowledge, experience, and work required to play one character well competitively. You need to memorize their moves, understand when to execute them and when to link them into combos for the win. It’s a very complex skill to master.
This video resonated with my core value of having more representation in male-dominated domains. I didn’t think much about this video until several months later in June 2020. I just finished a small project exploring dataviz in board games. I felt ready to explore game mechanics in video games. I remembered the video by Yuyu and thought maybe I should start exploring dataviz with Tekken 7. I wondered if I could break down certain moves to help players learn them and assess which ones were risky and which ones were safe. The ultimate goal is to provide a guide to help beginners learn the game and develop their own tactics to win.
When I was exploring the game mechanics of a board game called Bang!, I realized I wasn’t teaching people how to play the game, I wanted to teach people how to think about the game.
How can we teach people to think about something? This is a very hard question to answer. How can we shape new ways of thinking so people can think for themselves? How can we teach people to criticize political leaders? How can we teach people how to think?
This project aims to fill several gaps when it comes to teaching players how to learn and think about Tekken. All the information that currently exists is in the form of video or blogs. Both aren’t very effective at allowing a player to get an overview of basics and teach tactics. Furthermore, frame rate data hasn’t been visualized yet. The data currently exists in huge data tables. Tekken is a game that hosts complex moves for each character, with many dimensions- it is the perfect playground for data visualization.
To be continued…